The bodies of Vietnamese migrants who died when human traffickers locked them in a refrigerated lorry have been repatriated to their home country today and taken to their families.
The 39 men, women and children were discovered frozen after being trapped in the metal container which was found in Essex in October.
The bodies of 16 victims, some of whom who were as young as 15, arrived on a flight in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, where a fleet of waiting ambulances transported them to their home provinces south of Hanoi.
There were harrowing scenes as loved ones sobbed while carrying the coffins of their relatives through the Southeast Asian country today.
Officials move coffins containing the bodies of 16 of the 39 victims found dead in a refrigerated lorry in Essex, at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam
Relatives carry the casket bearing the body of Nguyen Van Hung as it arrives in Dien Chau district, Nghe An province
Relatives of John Hoang Van Tiep wept as his coffin arrived at his home in Nghe An province
There were harrowing scenes as the family of John Nguyen Van Hung watched his body arrive in Nghe An province
Nguyen Dinh Gia, whose son Nguyen Dinh Luong was among those found dead, told Reuters: ‘After waiting for so many days, my son has finally arrived. We are deeply saddened, but we have to hold back the emotion to organise the funeral for my son.’
Maurice Robinson, 25, who is accused over the deaths of 39 migrants, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to plotting to assist illegal immigration
He was speaking from Ha Tinh province, where another 10 victims were from.
The container had been loaded onto a ferry in Zeebrugge in Belgium in a people smuggling operation, before the horrifying discovery at an Essex port last month.
Vietnamese woman Pham Thi Tra My sent her mother a series of harrowing messages telling her she ‘loved her’ and was ‘dying because she couldn’t breathe.’
Her family claim the 26-year-old paid people smugglers £30,000 to travel to the UK via China ‘in search of a better life.’
The bodies were found on October 23 in the town of Grays, Essex. Police say the victims were aged between 15 and 44.
The 31 men and eight women are believed to have paid human traffickers for their clandestine transit into England. Several suspects have been arrested in the UK and Vietnam.
Hoang Lanh, father of 18-year-old victim Hoang Van Tiep, was informed by a local government official that his son’s remains would be brought home today, along with those of six other victims from Dien Chau district in Nghe An province, including Tiep’s cousin Nguyen Van Hung.
Officials had the difficult task of repatriating the bodies at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam
Relatives place the casket bearing the body of Nguyen Van Hung at his home in Dien Chau district
People held aloft white roses as the solemn procession made its way through Vietnam today
Some 39 men, women and children died as temperatures plunged to freezing in the refrigerated lorry container
A portrait of 18-year-old Hoang Van Tiep who is understood to have left home two years ago after his family got a £13,500 loan to pay for him to travel to Russia and on to France. He had left his family in Yen Thanh to risk his life getting into the UK
Ambulances carrying the bodies of John Hoang Van Tiep and John Nguyen Van Hung to a church in their hometown
Pham Thi Lan (in the foreground), is the mother of 33-year-old Nguyen Van Hung
Nguyen Van Hung, 33, last messaged his parents on October 21, telling them he was ‘going by taxi’ to the UK
People carry a funeral wreath to the home of Nguyen Van Hung as the casket bearing his body arrived in Dien Chau district
Hoang Lanh (left) and Hoang Thi Ai (right), father and mother of Hoang Van Tiep who died aged just 18
‘It’s bittersweet, I can’t believe I would have to welcome my son back like this,’ Lanh said. ‘I’m devastated but I am happy to have him back with us soon.’
Another victim’s family expressed their sadness ahead of receiving the bodies of their loved one.
‘I have been sad for a month and I can’t eat anything,’ said Nguyen Thanh Le, father of 33-year-old Nguyen Van Hung. ‘My son died far away from his home and I had to wait for a long time, but today his body is coming back and tomorrow is the funeral.’
Legal proceedings in the case are continuing in England.
On Monday in London, a lorry driver accused over the deaths of 39 migrants pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, who was allegedly part of a global smuggling ring, is also charged with the manslaughter of a group of men, women and children found dead in a refrigerated trailer.
He was arrested shortly after the bodies of eight females and 31 males were discovered in the container attached to his Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, early on October 23.
Robinson, who is known as Mo, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing. He faces 39 counts of manslaughter, a count of conspiracy to traffic people, and one charge of concealing criminal property.
He admitted acquiring criminal property and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, but entered no pleas to the other counts. He will appear in court again next month.
On Monday British police said they had arrested a 36-year-old man on suspicion of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. Two other men have been arrested in Britain and Ireland in connection with the case.
Distraught relatives as the body of Nguyen Van Hung arrived home in Dien Chau district, Nghe An province
Some 16 of the 39 victims were returned to their homes in Vietnam today, to be properly laid to rest
The bodies of eight females and 31 males were discovered in the trailer attached to his Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, early on October 23
The victims included (top row, left to right) Pham Tra My, 26, Anna Bui Thi Nhung, 19, Nguyen Huy Hung, 15, and (middle row, left to right) Nguyen Dinh Lurong, 20, Vo Ngoc Nam, 28, Hoang Van Tiep, 18, and (bottom row, left to right) Nguyen Dinh Tu, 26, Nguyen van Hung, 33, and Le Van Ha, 30
The group were were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi
Who were the 39 people who died in the Esssex lorry container?
These are the names of the victims of the Essex truck tragedy are:
Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Dinh Lurong, a 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Phong, a 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Vo Nhan Du, a 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Tran Manh Hung, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Tran Khanh Tho, a 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Vo Van Linh, a 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Van Nhan, a 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Bui Phan Thang, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Hung, a 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh
Tran Thi Tho, a 21-year-old woman from Nghe An
Bui Thi Nhung, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An
Le Van Ha, a 30-year-old man from Nghe An
Tran Thi Ngoc, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hung, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An
Hoang Van Tiep, a 18-year-old man from Nghe An
Cao Tien Dung, a 37-year-old man from Nghe An
Cao Huy Thanh, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An
Tran Thi Mai Nhung, a 18-year-old woman from Nghe An
Nguyen Minh Quang, a 20-year-old man from Nghe An
Le Trong Thanh, a 44-year-old man from Dien Chau
Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, a 28-year-old woman from Nghe An
Hoang Van Hoi, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Tho Tuan, a 25-year-old man from Nghe An
Dang Huu Tuyen, a 22-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Trong Thai, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hiep, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Thi Van, a 35-year-old woman from Nghe An
Tran Hai Loc, a 35-year-old man from Nghe An
Duong Minh Tuan, a 27-year-old man from Quang Binh
Nguyen Ngoc Ha, a 32-year-old man from Quang Binh
Nguyen Tien Dung, a 33-year-old man from Quang, Binh
Phan Thi Thanh, a 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong
Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, a 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue
Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, a 18-year-old man from Hai Phong
Tran Ngoc Hieu, a 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong
Dinh Dinh Binh, a 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong